Hokepoints: Seasoning the Line
Gardner's implied question is the same we're all asking [Fuller]
The 2014 football season hinges on whether the offensive line can go from one of the worst in the country to just mediocre. We've mentioned the downsides: it has to replace two NFL tackles. The upside is an offensive coordinator who plans to simplify the things they'll have to do, a ton of talent, and rather good excuses for why the bulk of guys weren't so good (youth compounded by panicky/insane coaching decisions). The competence of coaches replaced, arriving, or remaining can't be determined until they play, so guesses at their 2014 performance have to be extrapolated from what we know of the current players and the typical progression of men like them.
When Michigan was still putting together those 2012 and 2013 classes I looked over the history of our offensive linemen going back to the mid-'90s, because my memory before that is weak.
|Year in program|
|Not on team||1||6||13||17||29|
|% Solid +||1%||11%||21%||29%||37%|
The results were the growth chart below. I've reproduced it with updated data from 2013:
Really it's more specific than the above. If you're the backup to Steve Hutchinson in 2000 you could be pretty solid or terrible, but if you were an interior lineman on the 2013 team and hale and still couldn't crack the depth chart, you were obviously not good at that point. One thing working in our favor is Michigan has historically brought in offensive line classes rated about as highly as the recent crops. If you tried this with MSU over the same period there would be stretches of 2-stars (and, um, personal issues) to throw off the numbers.
A more precise way to show where our OL are at this point is to find closer comparisons to historic players at this point in their careers. I couldn't figure out a good way to show "tracks" before, but I think I've learned enough about table html now to make a crude flow chart. Sample sizes are way too small to say "Kalis will be X good by Y season," but if you can read it to say "At that age, Steve Schilling and Patrick Omameh were both about where Kalis is now." Usefulness is better at capping expectations: you can always say so-and-so was a backup at this point, but Miller's not going to be Molk.
|Not on team (x)||TransferRS||Backup||Solid||Star||Jonathan Goodwin|
|Solid||Star||Star||Jansen, Hutchinson, Backus, Long, Lewan|
|Star||Star||David Brandt, David Baas|
|Solid||Star||Tony Pape, Adam Kraus, Schofield|
|Liability||Solid||Frazier, Petruziello, Bihl, Ortmann|
|Liability||David Moosman, Perry Dorrestein|
|Backup||Ben Mast, Courtney Morgan|
|Backup||Solid||Kurt Anderson, Leo Henige|
|Backup||N. Parker, Denay, Kolodziej, McAvoy|
|Unrenewed||Partchenko, Potts, Christopfel, Gaston, DeBenedictis, Ciulla, Gallimore, Khoury|
|Injuries||Zirbel, Mossa, Sharrow, Brooks, Schifano, C. Bryant, Tannous, A.Brown, Simelis, Berishaj, C.Pace|
|Transfers||Ries, Moltane, Zuttah, Wermers, O'Neill, Posada|
[Discussion after the jump]
Played as freshmen track: Bosch and Cole?
Until Bosch Michigan had only started one true freshman, that being Boren, who beat out a better (still not great) depth chart for his playing time. If Mason Cole starts this year he would be just the third. I would guess that the guy they picked to start as a freshman, even if he wasn't very good, is still ahead of his class. I definitely wouldn't expect an all-conference season from either, but there's a reasonable hope that Bosch at least could be a decent starter, which would mean nice things for the future.
Figure most years both of these guys would have redshirted. Upside is still Backus and Hutchinson, downside is still all the way down.
Liability as a redshirt freshman starter track: Kalis & Mags
Again, a guy starting as a redshirt freshman is rare, and a guy ready to play at a Big Ten level his redshirt freshman year is rarer still. A guy who's decent by his second year in the program tends to be awesome. A guy who's forced to play at this point and is a liability is still probably going to be good; even if you'd rather he not be starting, he's shown the coaches enough by this point to be ahead of the field of other guys you don't want starting.
|How could they make Schilling a tackle? Couldn't they see his number was clearly in the 50s?
[photo: Allen Warren|AnnArbor.com]
Our two examples are Steve Schilling and Patrick Omameh, who broke into the starter ranks late his redshirt freshman year with mixed results. Omameh regressed sharply once he could no longer do what he was great at (devastating second-level defenders), and was asked to pull or manhandle the guy in front of him, both things he could never do well.
You could perhaps compare Mags to Schofield, who was a decent interior lineman as a RS sophomore then moved outside to his natural tackle position and was quietly pretty good. Schofield didn't start as a redshirt freshman, but that year (2010) didn't have any obvious holes. Schofield as a sophomore guard was decent-but-protected (and played because Barnum got hurt). When he played his natural tackle spot he looked okay. Stenavich in 2001 was the natural comparison for those with a 10-year memory of eventually decent offensive linemen.
Kalis is your Schilling comparison. Schilling was also a 5-star, but he was asked to play right tackle—and didn't do very hot—for a couple of years before he moved inside, where he wound up being pretty good. What does Schilling look like as a starting guard in 2008? Probably on the high liability side.
Solid as a sophomore track: Glasgow
It's hard to call anyone on Michigan's interior line "solid" but the low end of that description fits the year Glasgow had. He was obviously the best of the group. The precedent for guys who are able to win the job and play at that level in their third year with the program is very encouraging. The upper end of expectations for Glasgow finds two similar center/guard types in Davids Brandt and Baas. Tony Pape and Adam Kraus grew into all-conference players as seniors. Adam Stenavich, Matt Lentz, and Mike Schofield are the low end of expectations. I'll take Lentz with a chance of Baas any day!
|Chances are good that many of Michigan's OL candidates are on the Huyge Track, which means you'll spend this year praying to replace them, next year still mad at them, and 2016 forgetting you ever said those things. [photo: Heiko]|
Liability as a sophomore track: Miller
Do we give up on Jack yet? History suggests yes, unless he's an exceptionally bright guard/tackle tweener like Chris Ziemann, who was loved by coaches but not as much by fans, or Mark Huyge, the more recent and unkillable example. Zach Adami isn't a good comparison; he was a guy who looked like a tackle but because Jansen and Runyan owned those spots Adami started two years at guard (one bad, one good) before emerging as the national championship team's All-Big Ten center as a senior.
Closer examples are Reuben Riley, Alex Mitchell, and Demeterius Solomon, who were good depth guys to have on the team but you didn't want them starting. Again, you're looking at lots of tweeners, which Miller isn't.
So let's look down the line where we do come across some centers who wound up okay as seniors in Steve Frazier, Mark Bihl and Kurt Anderson, and some guys who never cracked better depth charts, Ben Mast and Courtney Morgan. There's also plenty of Tim McAvoy-like objects. So don't give up on Miller but there's only a remote (Dave Pearson) chance that he's solid this year.
Backups and redshirt tracks: everybody else.
This is just a big "no idea" for these guys. Mentally put Braden and Bars behind the two guys who cracked the depth chart last year, and save all other judgment for the future.
If we're sticking to this "you might remember me from such players as" thing then here's basically how I'd see the offensive line going down:
|LT||Magnuson||Schofield if he played OT in 2011.||Solid-|
|LG||Bosch||Omameh in '09||Liability+|
|C||Glasgow||The non-Backus/Hutchinson OL in '99||Solid|
|RG||Kalis||Schilling in '08 if he was a guard||Liability|
|RT||Braden/Cole/LTT/?||Huyge as a sophomore||Liability|
When I plug these guys into the seasons of recent memory to find a comparison, the two obvious things stand out: 1) Rich Rod's offense >>>> Hoke's/Carr's and 2) Liability starters are a problem:
rushing yards per carry and passing yards per attempt are sack-adjusted
There were two seasons with no liability starters, and those produced really really good rushing numbers. However 2014 should have been better by this chart than 2013. That's because "liability starter" can mean Elliot Mealer/Ricky Barnum/Patrick Omameh, who could start for bottom quarter of the Big Ten in most years, or Miller/Bosch/Kalis last year, who could fall halfway down the MAC before getting drafted in this draft I just made up where midwestern teams are drafting Michigan players.
It's also the difference between three 5th year seniors, and three guys with three years of college between them. At best the 2014 line will be something like the 2009 version, which was young, in its second year under a new coach, and flashed good things until it lost Molk and crumbled to below-average. That of course was under one of the game's greatest coordinators, but Omameh was the only guy Rodriguez had recruited himself. It also lost 412 yards in TFLs and gave up more sacks than 2008 despite the run-based offense and the second-year Rodriguez leap effect. That's partly on too-moxie-to-ever-throw-it-away freshman Forcier, but a line with pores is one that can be exploited despite good pieces elsewhere, something the 2013 offense is nodding vigorously about.
So that's the bad news. The good news is that once these guys are upperclassmen there's a very good chance of finding five solid or higher players, and the couple times that's happened Michigan's offense has been between good and really really good.
I think there's enough talent and potential there to put together a solid o-line. The players know that no one's penciled in to start so the competition should be more intense. Which hopefully creates a better o-line.
What is an O-line?
Along the lines of a unicorn or chimera, but more fantastic thus rarer.
More Hoke 2014 excuses
Im still taken aback at how much better the OL looked in the bowl game with Morris at the reigns, and the utter lack of discussion. Had Morris played for the second half of the season, I wonder how different the numbers would look.
And I havent been much of a fan of Bosch's play, who looks quite fat and immobile. I am a big fan of Cole, seeing him shut down Clark.
You think that having the Freshman QB is what made the OL better? REALLY?
It wasn't the fact that the OL had, oh, 30 or so days of practice leading up to the game, could study for just 1 opponent, had about 5 total plays to run becuase there was a true freshman back there... no. It was Shane and how great he was.
Just going to leave this here:
CMP ATT YDS CMP% LNG TD INT RUSH AT ATT YDS AVG LNG TD
10/5 Minnesota W 42-13 13 17 235 76.5 46 1 0 212.0 7 17 2.4 13 1
10/12 @Penn State L 43-40 (4OT) 15 28 240 53.6 59 3 2 146.6 24 121 5.0 19 0
10/19 Indiana W 63-47 21 29 503 72.4 70 2 0 240.9 15 81 5.4 18 3 95.1
1/2 @Michigan State L 29-6 14 27 210 51.9 58 0 1 109.8 18 -46 -2.6 6 0
11/9 Nebraska L 17-13 18 27 196 66.7 25 1 0 139.9 16 -32 -2.0 7 0
11/16 @Northwestern W 27-19 (3OT) 24 43 226 55.8 24 1 0 107.6 17 19 1.1 22 1 5
11/23 @Iowa L 24-21 13 28 98 46.4 18 2 0 99.4 10 12 1.2 8 0
11/30 Ohio State L 42-41 32 45 451 71.1 84 4 0 184.6 9 10 1.1 14 1
Ahh.... maybe notice that Morris knew when to rid the ball...he was very conscientious of this, and Gardner just wasn't, all year long. Sure, we lost, but that was Morris' first game..... I am implying that alot of the OL issue falls on Gardner.
Morris got rid of the ball because he was spoon fed short throws and easy reads so as to not overwhelm him in his first game. Blame Borges for designing routes that took too long to develop if you must, but Gardner didn't cause many sacks by being indecisive. Given a porous OL, I would take the guy that's got enough atleticism to play WR in the NFL over a pocket passer with better than average mobility any day.
And I'd counter that you are divining WAY too much from one game that took place a month after a single game.
also, the line still didn't open up great running lanes.
They went from an F range to probably a D at Northwestern to a solid C- against OSU. They started seeing some success running the inside zone (*gasp*) at NU and took some of that confidence forward. The offensive result vs OSU was the result of an OL that generally didn't win many assignments, but was finally getting into most of their assignments.
If you're actively grading out the unit the way many coaching grade out offensive lines, the OL went from a bunch of threes and an occasional four from the OTs and zeros and ones from the interior, to threes and the occasional four from the OTs and ones and twos from the interior.
If the whole line is a 2+ that is a successfully blocked play. "Zero" is a kill play, regardless of the player they kill the play.
Now, I don't think that was due to Morris. I think that was more about getting into a scheme that they understood a little better, and then getting some confidence within that scheme.
…will affect player development? I know nothing about coaching, but am hopeful about Nussmeier's pared down scheme and the prospect of players more quickly gaining competency and confidence with it. Which seems consistent with your view of the bowl game. But do you have any thoughts or concerns about the affect coaching consistency may play on development this year—does a coaching change at Nussmeier's level (i.e. when Funk is still there) really affect player development beyond the scheme change?
I mean, there is a new learning curve, right? New terminology and things like that. Especially early, that forces you to do more "thinking" than you'd typically like to do. From a OL standpoint, the high level stuff - aka the inside zone - is pretty much the same, but there may be some slight tweaks in the details. Aiming points, hand placement, different pass protection (which I saw in the spring game), things like that. So again, there is some more thinking going on. And that's across the board, WRs adjust routes differently, TEs do as well, new hot reads, things of that nature.
And much more so for QBs. They have to learn new progressions, terminology, how you want to read concepts against certain defenses, etc. So it's a big change for the QBs who are also working with a new QB coach. So that kind of steps them back a little bit early and makes the summer more important, because a lot of that "thinking" has to become second nature before the offense can be good.
So in those ways it slows down development because players are thinking of higher level things and really thinking about technique instead of growing from what was their previous base. But that growth should be a bit faster, as there are still similarities in everything. In the end, the marginal step back is likely offset by learning new concepts, new tricks of the trade, new emphasis put on different things. You become a more rounded player and get a new perspective, and have two coaching POVs to work off to some degree. But it'll take time to get there.
I think generally, the most important aspect of the coaching change is if the players buy in 100%. The unit can't afford to be down on itself, it needs to have great energy and drive to improve. Nuss brings energy, but it still comes down heavy on the players to take that energy and use it over the course of the summer to get better. If they do, they should improve (and improve at a pared down scheme likely even by Nuss's standards), if they don't, it'll look pretty rocky come fall.
Appreciate the thorough answer. Like so many things, despite all the preparation, practice and repetition it comes down to the mental game—toughness and confidence. Hopefully they can start the season by executing well to create some positivity and build from there. After last season I can not (do not want to) fathom a way that they could be anymore demoralized.
I agree with you the OL looked better in the bowl game I remember talking about it at least for a little while. I disagree it had anything to do with who was at QB and everything to do with the bowl practice time and finally being able to work on one scheme for more than a few days without changing to something else.
Bosch seems to be behind the curve still as far as picking up the system and assignments (judging by the Spring Game), but it's sitll pretty early into Nuss's system for him. Cole certainly has tantalizing ability and moves like a Michigan LT should, but he lacks both the strength to stand up to bull rushes and the experience to react to things like stunts and delayed blitzs (really our entire OL has the problem). He'll be a good one in the future. Logan Tuley-Tillman falls into that category too, flashed ability but is still very raw.
I'm actually surprised how little buzz there has been about Kugler. I really thought he impressed the most out of the OL in waiting. He got overpowered at times too, but as far as picking up assignments, he seems to be more advanced than some of the guys that played last year. If he could lock up the center position, that would free up Glasgow to move to guard or even RT if needed, and that would be a huge positive.
IMO everything is riding on Kugler. If he's able to allow Glasgow to slide over to right tackle it improves the line greatly.
How much better does this look
I was very impressed by Mason Cole this spring. Thanks to the poster above for reminding me of an otherwise forgettable game/practice. If he continues to improve maybe we'll see him at LT and Mags at right. As long as Gardner stays upright and we can pop 4 ypc I don't care about redshirts and youth.
And pretty good hand placement. I haven't watched it again or as closely to truly grade him, but he was advanced for a FR. He still needs strength though and has quite a bit to work on to be more than a liability as a FR. That's not a knock on him, it's just the difficulty of performing as a true FR on the OL.
You're welcome... I view the OL as this...
Magnuson - COLE - Glasgow - Kalis - Braden
but I would not be surprised to see Glasgow at RT and Kugler starting, either... I don't think Bosch should play yet...and maybe Kalis too...they both don't seem ready.
but I would rather see Glasgow at guard because he pulled quite well there, and playing center seemed to have limited him.
It's pretty eye opening to realize that out of the entire 2010, and 2011 recruiting classes, we have exactly one scholarship OL, and that's Jack Miller.
How much of their normal progression was hindered by Borges trying every offensive scheme? We'll find out in the fall I guess.
While I think Nuss will be an upgrade, as the chart indicates there is a normal improvement year to year because of learning as well as strength improvements. Trying to blame it all on Borges would not be correct.
How much of Borges trying every offensive scheme was because the line was getting crunched?
I'm not wondering just for the sake of wit. If our line continues to be a liability, it won't much matter what scheme we run, but if the scheme hides the weak points we can aspire to a mediocre line and a much better season.
Just don't suck and decreased negative plays. That's all this team needs from the O line and it should be a 9-10 win team.
I'm tired of the youth excuse, and I'm even more tired of losing. Save the 2011 season, it's been pretty lousy to be a Michigan fan since about 2006. RR gave us hope and entertainment, but didn't deliver. Hoke inspired us with an amazing first season, but has fizzled since.
I'm tired of excuses and I'm sick of losing. But the reality is--as this AMAZING post demonstrates (thank you, Seth)--we're still really young and not likely to be very good on the O-line.
Without actually doing the heavy lifting of checking, I would guess that most programs follow a very similar progression trend with their O-Lines--even the ones with great coaches and consistent success. I know for a fact from my own research that Borges' success largely followed the experience of his O-Line.
What remains to be seen is if Nuss' and the staff can get this thing turned around from a team where "liability" players aren't able to block anything to "liability" players who can at least find their assignment on most every play.
With the '14 defense, the offense should not have to do much heavy lifting, but we won't win if we go backwards with anywhere near the frequency we did in '13.
If you start two liabilities you're not looking good, and that's what we should expect for 2014. The good news is that we don't have to be good, just not record-breaking awful, to be decent overall.
Success on offense starts with the line, and the line is successful when you have upperclassmen who were four and five star recruits. FSU's line is the exception, not the rule - and they were also backed with a ton of upperclass talent everywhere else.
The upside is that our 2015-2016 lines should be pretty damn good; if we're starting underclassmen then it will be because they outplayed the four/five start upperclassmen ahead of them on the depth chart.
...but it's not an excuse. It's a very real reason why the OL has sucked.
These days it's not unheard of for 2nd year OL--esp. the sort of highly-touted OL that constituted Michigan's 2013 OL class--to be capable of starting, if necessary. Bosch, Fox and Kugler should all be at or around playing weight, i.e., 300-310 lbs. FSU just won a national championship with 4 of the 5 OL starters being in their 3rd year in the program. (Note: the same 4 OL were part of a very good OL in 2012 and were only in their second year in the program... just like Michigan's 2013 OL class will be this year.) And, full disclosure, Bosch, Fox, Kugler and Dawson were better (read: higher rated coming out of high school) than the 4 3rd year OL who just won the national championship at FSU. The top OL from Michigan's 2013 class should all be challenging for a starting position in 2014; the 2014 OL should be very good; and the 2015 OL should be downright dominating, i.e., national championship worthy.
Yes there are cases of 2nd and 3rd year OL being good. We have had them here (Lewan being the latest example). However that's the exception, not the rule. It's one thing to say that it's possible we'll be good this year with our 2nd and 3rd year OL because so and so did it, it's quite another to say we should be good. That's like saying X millionaire didn't go to college, so going to college is a waste of time.
e.g., Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Stanford, FSU, et. al. In even the best programs guys like Kugler, Dawson and Bosch would not sit for 2 years unless the team was fortunate enough to be in a position not to need them. There's no good reason that Michigan's 2014 OL isn't very good.
But in 2011 FSU some true Freshmen started some games--in the bowl game vs. Notre Dame FSU started 4 true Freshmen. In 2012 all of the 4 2011 true Freshmen started as true Sophomores. Last year (2013) when FSU won the championship, these same 4 OL started as true Juniors.
And of the 4 OL who started some games as true frosh in 2011, and started all games as true Sophomores in 2012 and then started as true Juniors in 2013 only 1 was as highly rated as Bosch, Dawson, Kugler coming out of high school.
In addition to FSU, some of the top programs with OL as highly rated as Bosch, Dawson and Kugler start some OL by year 2--just off the top of my head I know of Ole Miss, Stanford, Bama, Auburn and FSU.
I'm not saying that it's ideal to do so, but these programs aren't known for bad O lines. And on the bright side for Michigan in 2014, you only really need 1 of the 2nd year OL to start... but the others should be able to step in and do so if necessary...these guys were highly rated, grown ass men coming out of HS.
In 2011, FSU rushed the ball 29 times for 41 yards (1.4 ypa), with quite a bit of those yards coming from QB scrambles from JR QB EJ Manual. Of FSU's 18 carries by RBs, only four went for more than 4 yards. So the performance was not great. This was against a defense that allowed 3.8 ypa coming in.
The closest comparison would likely be Michigan vs ND in 2013, just because the OL hadn't had another season worth of practice yet and had a highly respect JR QB behind them. Michigan's stats, while not great, are comparable. RBs carried 23 times for 70 yards. The pass pro was pretty bad and there were some issues elsewhere, but you would expect as the group grows together, the trend would be relatively similar to the FSU OL, though FSU took a pretty big step forward in 2012.
the OL was atrocious b/c of injuries of starting upper-classmen, which resulted in the true Freshmen starting by the end of the season, e.g., bowl game vs a very good Notre Dame team...who didn't lose again until the national championship the following year.
But in 2014 you won't be starting *true* freshmen, you'll be starting RS freshmen. The relevant analgoue to Michigan 2014 is FSU 2012... go see how FSU's OL did in 2012.
I understand that line is a very difficult position, physically, for a freshman to play which is why the vast majority redshirt their first year. However, there are situations in which there is a player that may be physically ready to play as a freshman that should play immediately. This isn't just a matter of the best players have to play, but for the future.
Bosch played as a freshman and I think that will help him out considerably for this year. I feel much more comfortable with a true sophmore than a redshirt freshman simply from a game experience perspective. Kalis probably should have played as a freshman which would most likely have made the line better last year as he would have either been a returning contributer or returning starter. If Cole is ready, I'd like to see him log minutes this year for the sake of next year.
When experience and depth are established can we go back to only playing freshmen on the line when they are ready to start.
I have hope. We had a top 10 draft pick at LT and another NFL talent at RT and were still one of the worst OL's in the country. This speaks to scheme more than talent IMO. If they are coached properly I think they'll be vastly improved as a whole this year and going forward.
It certainly isn't a promising O-line situation next year. On top of our inexperience, it seems that the guys in the trenches truly lack confidence.
It sucks to think about it this way, but if Hoke were to get canned after 2014 (its an especailly uphill battle considering @ND, MSU, and Ohio), whoever were to take over the job (possibly Les) would have a roster LOADED with 4 and 5 star upperclassmen, and a home schedule that would lend itself to a BCS berth season...could be great for momentum going forward.
I am hopeful, particularly because of Jabrill Peppers. But make no mistake, since that fateful November day when ohio shocked us in '01, things haven't been the same.
The frustrating thing is that it seems as though some strides are being made, at times. Other times, it seems like it's getting worse. Even when UM didn't win the National Championship in '99, still, it seemed as though the program was headed in the right direction. I remember thinking when Anthony Thomas and Steve Hutchinson were done that they went 32-5 for their careers; at least I think so, off the top of my head. That's pretty good. Barring the minor hiccup that was the '98 season, they had the perfect season in '97, and two solid campaigns in '99 and 2000. It really seemed as if everything was hitting on all cylinders back there.
In 2006, i thought they figured things out for much of the season. In the Rose Bowl, it was apparent that just wasn't true.
At this point, I think they need to pull themselves up by their own boostraps. Schemes, scheduling, wi-fi in the stadium...it's all just window dressing.
Let's get back to basics: Win some games. Make plays in every facet of the game. Beat ohio in ohio, and watch how quickly the mojo comes back to lfe.
Some talk on here about how RR should have had a fourth year and that Dave Brandon fired him prematurely. I couldn’t agree less. Memories fade --- especially bad memories. People have largely put RR’s last, 2010 season behind them. That too was a 7-6 season, but between that season and Brady’s 2013, 7-6 season, the differences are stark. And those differences underscore why RR was fired, and why Brady should be retained.
In the seven games M won in 2010, it scored 301 points for a 43-point per-game average. During those same seven wins, M’s opponents scored 208 points, for a 29.7 (i.e., 30-point) per game average. This of course includes the three-overtime, 67-65 thriller (if that’s the right word) against Illinois. M lost its six regular-season games by an average of 14.5 points, or a little over two TDs. These losses included rivalry games against STAEE (-17), and Ohio (-30), and a 20-point loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. The postseason loss was that wholly forgettable, 14-52 debacle at the hands of Mississippi State. Absent an argument about STAEE, M was never in a position to win the Ohio, Wisconsin, or certainly the Mississippi State games.
In the seven games M won in 2013, it scored 284 points, or 40.57 (41-points) per game. M’s opponents scored 163 points, 23.23 points per game --- about a TD per game less than in 2010. But the real difference was in the loss column. In 2013, M lost its six regular-season games by an average of 3.88 (4 points) per game. The one out-of reach game was STAEE, in which Dark Lord Narduzzi and his minions held M to two field goals while the STAEE offense scored 29. Backing out that game, M’s average loss margin in the other five games was 2.2 points --- each one a game M could have won. So even with all of M’s O-line/running game woes, a nine, maybe 10-win season was within realistic reach. Forget the Buffalo whatever Bowl, in which M started a rookie QB and K-State had a wideout for whom M had no answer. Still, M only lost that one by 17 points --- it wasn’t a 38-point blowout like the 2010 Gator Bowl.
Rather than progress over the 2010 season, that M team regressed into ennui. You might believe John Bacon (Three and Out) that by season’s end the team simply gave out and gave up, or you might believe some other theory. The fact remains that RR’s third-season record provided no grounds on which Dave Brandon could justify a renewal/extension of RR’s then-expired contract. On the other hand, Brady and his staff, facing as they did a whole host of well-documented issues, still won seven and, had the football bounced the other way a few times, were in a position to win a few more. Brady and staff did the best with what they had and more than deserve not just one more year, but, given what we expect will be a bit more progress this year, at least another year after that. Go Blue.
Was a fitting end to this discussion.
They simply must get better. I cannot imagine them getting any worse. But then again, who knows?